Sunday, December 31, 2006

For the New Year

It seems like there's a lot of emphasis on the end of the year--looking back on things that happened, gathering together to party as the year ends in order to "ring in" the new year with plenty of drunken noise--but I've started developing a slightly different approach. Okay, yes, if my favorite bar (Boru's on West Main Street) were going to be open tonight, I'd go hang out there. But what I do on New Year's Eve isn't as important to me as what I do on New Year's Day. A couple of years ago, I started going to the beach (Hammonnasett - and boy is the beach different in winter!) on the first day of the year, and I use the day to think about my goals and plans for the new year. I don't think of myself as having "resolutions," since that sounds too cliched. Not to mention that I associate resolutions with self-improvement task lists that get abandonned after a few weeks.

In keeping with my tradition of New Year goals, I've put together a list of things I'd love to see happen in Waterbury (in no particular order). Feel free to add to the list!

1. More trees! There are many stretches of roadway that feel like barren wastelands, but would be pleasant and inviting with rows of tall trees (not those dinky little miniature trees they planted on West Main Street). East Main, Union and Silver Streets by the Brass Mill Mall are top candidates.

2. Improved sidewalks, more sidewalks, and more crossing lights. Waterbury is a dangerous city for pedestrians, not because of muggers, but because of speeding cars. At least half the sidewalks in the city are almost impassable to walkers and completely impassable to wheelchairs and strollers. There are a lot of busy streets where drivers go 40+ mph, but there are no crossing lights for pedestrians and nothing separating the nearly unusable sidewalks from the roadway.

3. Make the parking lot between Grand Street, Leavenworth Street and Center Street more inviting. This would involve cleaning up the backs on some of the Grand Street buildings, adding fresh paint, repaving the lot and planting a few trees and flowers.

3.5 (forgot to add this one) Bicycle racks downtown. This one might happen later this year.

4. Convert the building in front of the parking lot on Leavenworth Street into a visitors' center (with public restrooms!).

5. Spend the money to fix up City Hall. The money will have to be spent no matter what option the city takes, so let's spend it on our nationally-recognized treasure.

6. Start running the city like an efficient business. Create a maintenance program to prevent city buildings and other facilities from degrading. Fix the heating problems in the Chase building (from what I've seen, the radiators in some offices can't be regulated, so the only way to keep the room cool enough to use in the winter is to open the windows). Eliminate the chaos that seems to have been running rampant for decades; I bet there are efficiency experts who could help make big improvements on the way the city is run.

7. Make it easy to find information about the parks. What are the hours for the different swimming pools? What are the hours for ice skating? It's very easy to post that information online.

8. Make sure all sidewalks are shoveled when it snows.

9. Put in diagonal parking on Grand Street. The right hand lane is undrivable most of the time, because people are double-parked (especially in front of the dry cleaners). Diagonal parking would increase the number of parking spaces and make for a more inviting downtown.

10. We need more businesses downtown. I would love to see all the assorted antique shops around the city get together to create a single antique mall on Bank, South Main or Grand Street. I've heard from a successful Waterbury business owner who would like to move to Bank or Grand, but can't afford the rent and is also concerned about the lack of parking for his customers.

Parking downtown is already tight, filling up all the storefronts will make it impossible. Yes, there is the scary parking garage on the corner of Grand and Bank Streets, but even if it were fixed up to be more inviting, most shoppers still won't use it. This is true at the Brass Mill Mall as well. The parking garage is always at least half empty, while the parking lot is full of shoppers fighting over spaces. I always park on the top level of the garage (unless it's raining, and then I park in the sheltered area, where there are still hundreds of empty spaces), I never have trouble finding a spot, it's a short walk to get inside, and there's never any traffic to cross.

Okay, that last one digressed into a grumble about the psychology of parking garages.... I guess now's a good stopping point. Time to go work on my personal goals for the upcoming year.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Some Perspective

I pulled the first images off and the others off someone else's blog.

Monday, December 04, 2006

No Snow

The weather forecasters got it completely wrong again. Last night they were saying we would have snow and/or rain until midday. This morning there isn't even a cloudy sky. Blue sky, sunshine, a little windy and COLD. Winter is definitely here as far as the temperature is concerned.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Police Academy

Every so often, late in the day (most recently around 7:30 p.m.), as I'm sitting in my apartment, I'll hear the distinctive sound of a group of men (and a lone caller) chanting while jogging through town. The first moment is usually surreal, since the sounds of a military base are so very foreign to this city. I think they must follow a lot of different routes, because months will go by before I hear them near my home. This is why it takes me a moment to remember that there's a police academy in Waterbury. Or, to be more correct, there's a "Recruit Training Facility" run by the Waterbury Police Department. It was started almost two years ago and trains new recruits for Waterbury and other cities in the state. I read about it in the newspaper back when it first opened, which is a lucky thing, otherwise I'd be completely mystified (I can just imagine the stories made up about the joggers by people who don't know we have a police academy!). The funny thing is, there's almost no information about its existence online. A google search pulled up no information; I had to go to the Waterbury police website (which really needs a new webmaster...) and click through a few pages before I found the information.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Ken Burns's "The War"

About six years ago, the Mattatuck Museum here in Waterbury was approached by researchers from Florentine Films, the Ken Burns documentary group, with questions about World War II. Burns had decided to do a documentary about the war effort on the homefront, and they were looking for representative cities. They needed an industrial northeastern city, and they needed a city whose historical society could help them gather up hundreds of still images and historic film strips, as well as residents with interesting stories about life in their city and factories during WWII. The Mattatuck, realizing what a great opportunity this was for the city and determined to do what they could to ensure that Burns chose Waterbury, supplied them with everything they needed, and Waterbury was chosen to be in the documentary. Three other cities, representing the south, the midwest and the west coast, were also chosen for the 14-hour maxiseries.

Burns has started playing teaser clips from the documentary at events around the country, and it was recently announced that the full documentary will air on PBS in September 2007. This is going to be a huge event for Waterbury. We'll be getting a lot of positive press, which I hope we can build on. I think a lot of city residents have a tendency to be very negative about Waterbury, because we've had so much bad publicity. Bad press is almost always more memorable than good press, but I think this is something that everyone will notice and remember.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Now Chickadees

Today my bird feeder attracted a pair of chickadees. At least, I think it was a pair. I'm fairly certain there was more than one. Chickadees, I discovered, flit about rapidly, swooping back and forth, stopping a moment here, a moment there. The cats were delighted.

The chickadee knew the cats were in the window; at one point the orange tabby punched the glass in an effort to get the bird, but the chickadee didn't care.

The chickadee never sat still, but he did keep returning to the same set of perches.

I think he was teasing the cats...

The sparrows turned up in a large group after a while. It's interesting to see the different behaviors. The sparrows are never the first to arrive; they always wait until someone else is eating the bird seed, then they flock down and devour as much as they can before something startles them and they fly away.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Oldest House in Waterbury

There's a house on North Main Street in Buck's Hill that was built in 1703/04, which means it almost certainly is the oldest house still standing in Waterbury. I think there are one or two others in Waterbury built in the 18th century, but I don't think they are as old as this one. Eventually I'll do some investigating, but for now I think it's safe to assume that the Buck's Hill house is the oldest. The photo is taken from the assessor's website, which incorrectly says that the house was built in 1829. The house now has vinyl siding, but the interior still has the fabulous original exposed timbers. It's been modernized a couple of times--once in the late 19th or early 20th century, when new wood flooring and a staircase were put in; and then at least once recently, when it was converted to two apartments--but it's still very cool.

Right now, the house is for sale. If my finances were more stable (I decided to try self-employment last year), I would make a serious effort to buy it. As it is, I'm still tempted... if I could find a friend to go in with me on it, I'd be even more tempted... but maybe it will be back on the market in a few years, when I'm in a better position to buy a home. Then again, maybe in a few years I will have found an even better house to buy.

The truth is that I sort of have love affairs with houses. It's turning out to be an annual event. Waterbury is full of beautiful old homes, most of which are within a reasonable price range. It's like being a kid in a candy store. Every year I come across another house for sale that I absolutely fall in love with, even though I'm still in love with the previous houses... I'm a house-lotharia!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Country Club Neighborhood

The "nicest" neighborhoods can be the most unfriendly, and it seems like people become less charitable when they have more money.

The Republican-American ran another article today ("Praying for Acceptance") about the on-going wrangling over the new home for mentally retarded people on Country Club Woods Circle. This time they interviewed one of the people living in the home. He seems like a nice kid, not really all that different from any other boy his age. I like a point his father makes--the opponents of the home have said that it will bring down their property values, which is pretty much the same as saying this boy will bring down property values simply by standing in the yard (essentially the same argument made by white residents a few decades ago if blacks tried to move into their neighborhood). The opponents are better organized than they were at first; now they insist that they never said anything like that. Someone must have warned them against being openly bigoted.

They can't legally chase out their new neighbors on the grounds that they might commit crimes (one opponent was quoted as saying that one of the retarded residents could prove to be a rapist--well, gee, so could someone who isn't retarded, for example, John Regan, who would have been warmly welcomed to the neighborhood three years ago). Instead, they've got the state attorney general trying to determine if proper bidding procedures were followed in the purchase of the house, and they claim that this is their only complaint. Yeah, right. If that really is their only gripe, then why hasn't anyone bothered to say hello to the new neighbors? Why ignore them? Why treat them like they don't exist, or have a plague? I can certainly understand the desire to preserve the character of your neighborhood, but you don't do it by banning people who are different. If they are worried about the group home becoming overcrowded, then find a way to address that issue without forcing them to move. Develop some human compassion. Try talking to the people who live in the home. Get to know them. Find out what they really are like before making bigoted generalizations.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Waterbury City Hall

Waterbury's City Hall building is one of our great treasures. It was designed by Cass Gilbert (architect of NYC's Woolworth Building and the U.S. Supreme Court building) and built in 1914. Along with the four other Cass Gilbert buildings surrounding it, City Hall is on the National Register of Historic Places. The building, however, is now yet another victim of our unpleasant recent past. Maintenance of the building was neglected for a long time, and it was further damaged by flooding from a sabotaged water pipe.

The ceiling of the front lobby. This looks like it mostly needs some fresh paint.

A proposal to appropriate and issue bonds for $48 million, to be used for the renovation of the building and the construction of a new firehouse on East Main Street, was rejected by voters on election day. I can certainly understand why some voters are afraid that the funds will be misappropriated, since that sort of thing happened frequently when Giordano was mayor. However, Giordano is long gone, and current-mayor Jarjura has not done anything to suggest he would misappropriate funds.

The ceiling of the stairwell... more fresh paint needed.

When the Palace Theater was still in worse shape than City Hall is now, there were plenty of people in Waterbury who didn't want to see it restored. They said it would cost too much, that it wasn't worth the effort, that the money would just get stolen by crooked developers, that we would be better off tearing it down (this idea makes me angry--we have these fabulous, beautiful, historic buildings; replacing them with something of equal quality would cost more than renovation; replacing them with something cheaper would be a tragedy).

A view up the main stairwell of Waterbury's city hall. How could anyone in their right mind suggest tearing this down???

All the same arguments against restoring the Palace are now being put forth against renovating City Hall. The Palace Theater was successfully renovated and is something we are all proud of. We should do the same for City Hall.

The bottom of a flag pole in front of City Hall.

The clock tower--it looks like the columns need to be scraped and repainted, and the dome might need some fresh gilding.

The window in the main stairwell. Again, how could anyone suggest destroying this? I'm very relieved that Jarjura has flatly stated that tearing it down is not going to happen. It would be such a nightmare if that were to happen! Waterbury would once again be ridiculed by the entire nation, and there would probably be a prolonged legal battle to prevent it from being destroyed.

The mayor will be meeting with the Board of Aldermen and the state oversight board on Tuesday next week to discuss options for saving city hall. At the very least, they need to bring it up to code so that it can be reoccupied. Renting office space is predicted to run as high as $800,000 a year. I don't like proposals to go ahead with the bonding even though it was voted down. Overriding the election results sets a bad precedent. If bonding really is the only way to go forward, then Jarjura should put some of his considerable funds into a campaign to save city hall and hold another referendum.

UPDATE 1/2/2011: Here are a few more shots I took the same day as the preceding images. For whatever reason, I didn't include them at the time.

Here's hoping we never see those vending machines return to the hallways!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

For the Birds

A couple weeks ago, I set up a bird feeder outside my living room window. It took almost a week before any birds noticed it. And, as it turned out, it wasn't a bird that found it first. The birds didn't notice the food until after a squirrel had started tearing into the seed bell. At first I was annoyed at the squirrel, but then I realized that he was eating only one type of seed and scattering the rest onto the roof for the birds to eat.

There seem to be only two types of birds here: sparrows and one blue jay. The blue jay sits in the tree and yells at the sparrows until they make room for him. The squirrel pretty much ignores the birds and focusses on getting his prefered type of seed out of the little cage they're in. I had to use a metal twist tie to keep him from opening the cage door. I tried a string, but he pulled that open.

When the bird seed was all gone, the squirrel climbed up on the metal bar, looked at me somewhat insistently, and made a loud knocking noise. Pushy little critter. Smart too. He knew that the cats couldn't get him through the glass, and he certainly seemed to know that I was supplying the food. The birds were just opportunists, but the squirrel makes things happen.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Palace Marquee

Here's another thing I would have missed out on if I were driving instead of walking. On my way home from work last Friday, I wandered into the opening ceremony for the new Palace Theater marquee.

Here is the crowd waiting patiently through half an hour (or more!) of speeches. I had trouble with the acoustics where I was standing. The speakers' voices were loud enough (and Jarjura's was overly loud), but it was difficult to make out the individual words. I think that one of the speakers said something about gathering here again on New Year's Eve. I hope that's true. I would love to see a NYE celebration in downtown Waterbury.

Just after 7 p.m., the sign was turned on. Bright lights on East Main Street! It was very cool.

Palace Theater Marquee, Waterbury, CT
I was amused by the number of people, at least 30, taking photos of the sign with their cell phones. Plenty of news cameras were present as well.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Pine Grove Cemetery

I'm walking a lot more than I used to, and I'm seeing things that I would miss if I were driving. For example, this sign posted at the entrance to Pine Grove Cemetery. It sounds like there are plans to build a "telecommunications facility" (a 60x60 foot compound, including a cell phone tower) in the center of the cemetery. There is a public hearing scheduled for November 21st at City Hall. Full information is online at the CT Sitting Council website.

Here's the plan for the compound from the CSC website.

I wonder how many other things I miss when I drive instead of walk?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

We Need a Better System

I did my duty and voted this afternoon. With two exceptions, I did not feel good about any of the candidates I voted for. Put simply, I did not like my choices. I was talking to someone about this yesterday, and we came up with an idea (for all I know, someone else has already put forth this idea) that might result in a better quality of public servants.

For each candidate, we should be able to vote Yes or No. Any candidate receiving more No than Yes votes is automatically disqualified. For each of the remaining candidates, should there be any, subtract the total number of No votes from the total number of Yes votes. Whoever ends up with the most number of Yes votes wins. If no candidate has more Yes than No votes, then we go find some new candidates.

In addition, there should be a clear job description for each position. The job description should be posted online and in the newspapers, accessible to everyone. The candidates would apply for the jobs in more-or-less the same way everyone else applies for a job--post resumes and references on their websites and in their mailings, and answer interview questions on television.

I think this would be a much more professional, responsible and civilized approach to elections. Any candidate trying to run a smear campaign against their opponants would be penalized.


The Republican-American has an election website up with some information about candidates, polling places, etc. I decided to give it a look this morning before going to to vote, just to make sure I'm decided about who I'm voting for. The website has an Election Day Countown clock, letting you know how many days left until Election Day. Today, which is election day (and it's only 10:15 in the morning, so I know the polls are still open), the clock reads "You missed it!"

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Lieberman, Lamont & Schlesinger

We're a week away from the election, so things are starting to get ugly. Lieberman is retaining a significant lead in the polls over Lamont, and Schlesinger barely even registers, with only 8 percent of the presumed votes. For reasons that are completely a mystery to me, Waterbury is now being "blamed" for Lieberman's success, with Lamont supporters citing our recent history of convicted criminal politicians (ref. today's issue of the Republican-American).

I don't know what the demographics are for Lieberman's district, but it seems highly unlikely that all of his supporters are in this one city. Maybe there is a higher percentage of Lieberman supporters here than elsewhere in his district. The polls indicate that he has 73 percent of the Republican vote, and Waterbury probably does have more Republicans than the suburbs do. However, I think the real issue is that the Republican party, at least around here, never seems to have a viable candidate. How many people know or remember that Schlesinger is running? Come to think of it, remember when Giordano was the Republican candidate running against Lieberman? Even before his corruption charges, everyone knew that was a joke. It's not just Lieberman, either. Joan Hartley never has competition from the Republicans. Most years there isn't even a Republican candidate at all. In the Waterbury region, the Republican party is pretty much dead, even though there are plenty of registered Republicans (and in this case, I suspect most of them are voting for Lieberman in order to maintain the status quo). Is it like this in other places?

After reading today's article (about an article in the Providence Journal blasting Waterbury), I have the unpleasant feeling that Lieberman's win, should it happen, will be attributed to the support of "that evil city" Waterbury. It's unfair, not to mention irresponsible. If a journalist wants to talk about this being a politically corrupt city, then he should do some research and attack our current situation and politicians, not the ghosts of our past.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More Neighborhood Comparison

My first Halloween in my new neighborhood, just north of Hamilton Park, was a disappointment. The first trick-or-treater showed up at 6:45--just a boy and his dad, not even wearing real costumes, just wigs. A little after 7pm, a pack of twelve kids, plus parents, swooped up the street and made a good dent in my candy supply. I wish I had put out more in the bowl for them, because that was all I got for trick-or-treaters. Heck, there was only one other house on the street with any decorations up, and most of the houses were doing a good job of looking empty. There's no Halloween spirit here.

By contrast, my old neighborhood, near downtown, full of drug dealers and prostitutes, had tons of kids out trick-or-treating. They started at dusk, with the youngest kids out mostly between 5 and 7, followed by increasingly older kids. The younger kids always had on great costumes. It was a lot of fun. I miss my old neighborhood. It was noisy and had serious traffic problems, but people were a lot friendlier there. (Okay, some of them were a bit too friendly... my neighbor came home one day to find a crackhead sleeping on his couch...).

Monday, October 30, 2006

Palace Marquee

The new marquee for the Palace Theater in Waterbury is being installed today, replacing the flat metal sign that has been up since they reopened (although there was one day this summer when I saw the metal sign being reinstalled, which seemed odd). The new sign has an electronic display on the sides for promoting upcoming events.

Palace Theater's website:

11/10/06 - Here's another photo from about a week later; banners have been bolted to the sides of the building, and pine trees have been placed out front... here comes Christmas!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Library books

I checked a book out of the Silas Bronson library at the start of the month. I need to read the book for my next book club meeting in November, but so far I haven't even started reading it yet. I started reading something else first (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), and I want to finish reading that before starting Paris to the Moon. I started getting panicky about the library book--it's due back on November 1st--and I don't want to pay two weeks' worth of overdue fees just to get it read before my club meeting. Luckily for me, I had a vague memory about online library book renewals. I went to the library website, logged in using my card number, and I was able to renew my book in a few seconds. Yay! Modern technology is great!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Waterbury Brew Fest

The Brass City Brew Fest was held yesterday in Library Park. There were 180 different types of beer, both domestic (including Connecticut) and international (Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, Chinese, Austrian, Belgian, and so on). Also good music, courtesy of Carnegie Clapp, and good food from several Waterbury restaurants.

I'm still learning how to use the camera in my new cell phone, so unfortunately these aren't the best-quality images.

The beer was served under the tents. The crowd tended to gravitate towards the sun, where it was warmer.

This is always one of my favorite things: a van with a tap on the side.

A good beer from China.

Another good beer; this one seems to be named after my cat, only he's more evil than saintly.

More crowds of people having a good time.

Clapp & Friends playing great music for the beer drinkers. I think the seats and tables were empty because it was so extremely cold out and they were in the shade.

At one point I saw someone pour a beer they didn't like onto the ground. My first reaction was annoyance (litterbug!), but then I decided it was a nice libation for the people buried there (little known fact: the area immediately in front and behind the library was the first cemetery for Waterbury; when they built the library in the 1890s, most of the burials were left in place, either because the coffins were too deteriorated to move or because there were no family members left willing to spend the money to relocate the remains).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Chris Murphy

At the moment, I don't know much about Chris Murphy. I usually wait until closer to the election to do my research about who I will vote for. What I do know about Chris Murphy is that somebody really hates him. He must be doing well in the polls, making his opponants nervous. Twice a day, I receive recorded phone calls telling my that Chris Murphy has dark secrets suggesting that he might be a corrupt politician so don't vote for him.

I'm really really tired of getting called twice a day to hear recorded messages. At this point, I'm planning on voting for Murphy, just to get back at the harrassing phone calls.

Unsolicited political messages should be included on the "do not call" lists that block phone solicitations.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Waterbury Tax Collector

I received a mysterious and threatening letter in the mail today from the Waterbury Tax Collector's Office. It was a DEMAND NOTICE stating that I owe $10.37 in taxes, plus 31¢ interest, and that I had ten days in which to pay this bill or else the city would seize my vehicle. They sent the letter to my old address, and the time lapse for forwarding my mail seems to be about a week. So that means I have three days to hand over $10.68 if I want to keep my car.

The mystery is that I paid my taxes this summer. So I called up the tax collector to find out why I still owed $10.37 in taxes. I had a very difficult time getting a clear answer from the woman who answered the phone. She sounded like she didn't really understand what was going on either.

The tax bill I paid stated that it needed to be paid by July 1 and that it would be delinquent after August 1. Well, for one reason or another (probably because I moved in June), I didn't remember to pay it until August 16. I paid using a credit card. The city did not process the payment until the middle of September (which screwed up my budget calculations).

At first the woman in the tax collector's office said that the $10.37 was the late fee for August and September. When I suggested that it didn't seem fair to charge me a late fee for September, given that my payment arrived in August, she said that $5.70 was the interest they charge for credit card payments. When I pointed out that the bill stated that credit card fees were automatically taken out of my credit card, she said that the $10.37 was the late fee for July and August. At that point I gave up and did not ask why I was charged a late fee for July when the bill said delinquency didn't start until August 1.

I'm putting a check for the full amount in the mail today; it should arrive in their office tomorrow. I can't wait to see what happens next. If it takes them until some time in November to process the check, will they try to seize my car? or will they just send me another bill, this time with late fees for October and November?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

More Pearl Lake Road

Alderman Arthur Denze has agreed to represent the residents of Pearl Lake Road in their fight against City Hall. Finally! Somebody willing to represent the people!

Sheila O'Malley, the mayor's chief of staff, was quoted by the Rep-Am as saying "Alderman Denze is entitled to put forward any resolution he sees fit, but the mayor has to concern himself with the safety and well-being of citizens who travel Pearl Lake Road. We will go forward with it because it needs to be done." This raises some questions for me.

Shouldn't the mayor also concern himself with the safety and well-being of citizens who LIVE on Pearl Lake Road?

WHO are these faceless citizens travelling the road? Why does the mayor care more about them than the citizens who live on the road?

Has anyone ever complained about the road being too dangerous? Have there been a lot of accidents caused by the road conditions?

I have driven on Pearl Lake Road many times, and as long as you obey the speed limit, there is no danger to the driver.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Maybe someone should fix it...

The downtown power grid blew up again last night. Sheesh! This seems to be happening more and more frequently. And this time the explosion caused a car to go up in flames. According to Jarjura (in the Republican-American), CL&P recently claimed that "all the power grids are in good order." And yet, following the last blow up on August 30, CL&P blamed the problem on the age of the power grid (it's 40 years old) and said that it would cost "millions and millions" to replace. "Millions and millions." Sounds to me like it needs replacing and they just don't want to do it. What if this had happened during Mardi Gros, when the downtown is packed with hundreds of little kids? This time a car was destroyed. Next time someone could get killed.

Friday, October 06, 2006


I used to live in a Waterbury neighborhood that scares most people. It has a high rate of unemployment, and a lot of police activity, because there are quite a few drug dealers, gun runners and prostitution.

I now live in a neighborhood that is mostly working class, with no sign of drug dealers, prostitutes or guns.

I lived in the "scary" neighborhood for two and half years. I never once had any trouble with my mail being stolen. Packages were delivered when I wasn't home and were left on the front porch. Sometimes I didn't realize the package was there for days. As far as I could tell, nobody ever considered stealing my stuff.

Yesterday a package was delivered to me in my new, "crime-free" neighborhood. I wasn't expecting it until today, so I didn't look for it last night. And, guess what? it was stolen. My downstairs neighbors saw the package and considered bringing it in for me, but didn't. This morning it was gone. On the bright side,'s telephone representative in India assured me that my ordered will be redelivered on Monday, presumably at no extra charge.

At the moment, I'm feeling very charitable towards the drug dealers and prostitutes. Upscale society hates and fears them, but at least they respect other people's property.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Farmington Canal Greenway

One of my favorite things about living in Waterbury is that it's only a short drive to a linear park/greenway that starts in Cheshire. The trail was built along what was, at one point, the Farmington Canal and, at another point, the New Haven/Northampton Railway. It currently extends to Hamden, making it roughly 12 or 13 miles in length. Most of it is pretty much level, although the further south you go, the more hills there are.

As you can tell from the photo I took with my very old cell phone, it's a really nice trail, great for bicycles, rollerblades, jogging and walking. On the weekends and evenings, it's packed with people. It is wide enough for three or four bicycles, and is divided into two lanes, sometimes with a dirt path along the side for joggers.

Click here to visit the website for the trail.

I really hope they someday extend the trail its full length, all the way to New Haven. It would be even more amazing if they could build it all the way to Northampton, MA.

Target Acquired

As I was driving by Target today, I noticed that the parking lot was packed full of cars. The banner on the side of the store still says "Opening October 8," but according to what I overheard while I was there, it opened yesterday.

It's a pretty good store, much posher than the WalMart and not just because everything is all shiny and new. The goods are of a higher quality (for example, pajamas that are 100% cotton, instead of polyester (although they have those too)). There's a better selection, more variety, and more to choose from. They have a really nice selection of curtains, including a brand that is supposed to block out 99% of incoming light while also insulating against the cold. The grocery section is larger than WalMart's, although still small, and they don't have any craft supplies like yarn. The Halloween decorations were pretty uninspired, mostly just electric jack-o-lanterns (afterwards, I went to the shabby old K-Mart and found a really great pirate skeleton in a hanging cage -- it will look great on my porch).

Inside the Target there is a Starbucks (what does that bring us up to, three Starbucks in Waterbury? as opposed to maybe twelve or fifteen Dunkin' Donuts...) and a Pizza Hut Express (which is the only Pizza Hut in Waterbury).

Saturday, September 30, 2006


The Republican-American ran an article on Thursday, Sept. 28, summarizing a talk given for the United Way at Timexpo by Douglas Hall, associate director of research for Connecticut Voices for Children.

According to the article, 24 percent of Waterbury's children live in poverty, while the median income is $42,000 a year.

Twenty-four percent. It's depressing. There are community centers and other organizations throughout the city that help improve the lives of the kids that have it the hardest. I can only assume that they are giving them the guidance and the skills to make their lives better (but, gee, wouldn't it be nice if the minimum wage were high enough for the parents to not be in poverty despite working full time?).

There have been a few times when I've seen community organizations encourage children to be beggers. That really annoys me. The Long Hill community center sometimes has the kids stand out on the corner hollaring at drivers to put money in buckets for their fund raiser. School groups will sometimes stand outside the grocery store asking for donations. This is not good skill-building. This is teaching the kids that begging works and is perfectly okay. The kids aren't even selling bad candy bars or making a lame effort to wash cars.

I think I'm going to start looking into the different volunteer organizations to see what's going on, and do what I can to help.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Pearl Lake Road

The city wants to widen and straighten Pearl Lake Road. The people who live on the road have been fighting this for decades. Currently, the road twists and winds through a nicely wooded residential area. The speed limit is 25, but a lot of drivers use the road as a cut-through and go as fast as they can without crashing.

The city claims that widening and straightening the road will get rid of "serious safety concerns." Uh-huh. The road would be perfectly safe if drivers obeyed the speed limit. Straightening the road will make it less safe. Drivers will probably start going 50 mph along it, making it significantly less safe for anyone living there. Jarjura appears to be one of the drivers who uses it as a cut through. He's making big talk about pushing the plans through no matter what the residents think.

The city's plans include new drainage, but I haven't seen any mention of sidewalks. The city never puts in enough sidewalks. All the city road developments over the past several years have failed to consider the needs of pedestrians.

What really galls me is the dismissal of the concerns of people who live on the road, and the total lack of official concern about speeders. It's like the city is saying that speeding and reckless driving is encouraged.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Brass City Buzz

My favorite place for coffee, panini and wireless access is gone. Brass City Buzz, on East Main Street, closed last week without warning or explanation. The owner covered up the windows with paper and posted a few signs saying "Closed", "Gift Certificates can be redeemed by sending them to x address" and "Please deliver mail to Louie's Pizza next door." Even the store's website is gone. This week a large realtor's sign went up in one of the windows.

I'm really sad about this. I loved Brass City Buzz. The paninis were fabulous, the atmosphere was great, the location was convenient. The suddenness of the closing is unnerving. I hope everything is okay with Dave (the owner).

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I don't approve this message...

I don't know when it started or why, but all of the political campaign commercials I've seen in the past month end with the candidate saying "I approve this message." Most of the commercials are narrated by the candidate, and most of them have the candidate as the only speaker.

Of course you approve the message! You just delivered it! It's your commercial!

It makes me wonder if there is a single ad agency responsible for all the commercials. Maybe there are only two or three, and they aren't creative enough to come up with anything else. It's annoying to the point where I'm almost willing to say that I will vote for any candidate who runs an ad that doesn't end with that statement. But, it would probably turn out to be a candidate I really don't like. On the other hand, I would love to see a candidate who isn't afraid to be different from all the other politicians.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Education Opportunity

From -- Yale University said on Wednesday it will offer digital videos of some courses on the Internet for free, along with transcripts in several languages, in an effort to make the elite private school more accessible.

While Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others already offer course material online without charge, Yale is the first to focus on free video lectures, the New Haven, Connecticut-based school said.

The 18-month pilot project will provide videos, syllabi and transcripts for seven courses beginning in the 2007 academic year. They include "Introduction to the Old Testament," "Fundamentals of Physics" and "Introduction to Political Philosophy."

The courses cannot be counted toward a Yale degree, and educators say they are no substitute for actual teaching.

Students at Yale -- one of the nation's most exclusive schools and the alma mater of U.S. President George W. Bush -- can be expected to spend nearly $46,000 for this year's tuition, room and board.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for us to share a vital and central part of the Yale experience with those who, for whatever reason, are not in a position to pursue a Yale education at first hand," Yale President Richard Levin said in a written statement.

The project is funded by a $755,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

from Yale's website:
Yale University is producing digital videos of selected undergraduate courses that it will make available for free on the Internet through a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The Open Educational Resources Video Lecture Project has received $755,000 for an 18-month pilot phase. The project will create multidimensional packages—including full transcripts in several languages, syllabi, and other course materials—for seven courses and design a web interface for these materials, to be launched in the fall of 2007. If the venture proves successful, Yale hopes to significantly expand its online offerings over the next few years. The new venture joins a growing number of university-based initiatives that use the Internet to make educational materials widely available.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to share a vital and central part of the Yale experience with those who, for whatever reason, are not in a position to pursue a Yale education at first hand,” said Yale University President Richard C. Levin.

“This exciting new venture is part of thinking more globally about the University and its reach beyond the walls of Yale,” said Diana E. E. Kleiner, Dunham Professor of the History of Art and Classics, who is directing the project.

“The Hewlett Foundation is committed to making high-quality educational content and tools freely available on the web by partnering with leading universities, said Marshall Smith, director of the Hewlett Foundation’s Education Program. “Yale’s commitment to open educational resources is a very important contribution to this goal.” Detailed information on the Yale project and others supported by Hewlett’s Open Educational Resources Initiative is on the Foundation’s web site.

While MIT’s OpenCourseWare model has been widely emulated, Yale will be the first university to tap the potential of digital video by combining course architecture with essentially complete sets of lectures from these courses, as presented by its faculty.

To create the online offerings that will introduce and test this new approach, Yale will draw on its recognized excellence in teaching across the full spectrum of liberal arts disciplines. Some of Yale’s most distinguished scholars are taking part. The three courses being taped this fall are:

Introduction to the Old Testament, with Christine Hayes, Robert F. and Patricia Ross Weis Professor of Religious Studies;
Fundamentals of Physics, with Ramamurti Shankar, John Randolph Huffman Professor and Chair of Physics;
Introduction to Political Philosophy, with Steven Smith, Alfred Cowles Professor of Political Science.
Those whose courses are slated for taping next spring include Charles Bailyn, Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of Astronomy; Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology; and Langdon Hammer, Professor and Chair of English.
Handling the technical aspects of the project will be Yale’s Center for Media Initiatives.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Nancy Johnson

Johnson TV spot: "A call is placed from New York to Pakistan. A terrorists plot may be unfolding. Should the government intercept that call or wait until the paperwork is filed? Nancy Johnson says; act immediately. Lives may be a stake. Liberal Chris Murphy says no, apply for a court warrant even if valuable time is lost."

Democratic challenger Chris Murphy says the spot purposely distorts his view.

"Current law allows you to intercept a communication at any time so long as you apply for a 'wiretap' after that communication has been intercepted. She knows that's my position and she's deliberately distorting it on the air," says Chris Murphy, (D) For Congress.

Yet another reason why I don't like Nancy Johnson... truly a career politician, happy to say whatever it takes to win votes, even if she is spreading dangerous misconceptions and making people more paranoid and bigoted. (For the record, I am not a Murphy supporter either. I don't yet know enough about him to know if I would vote for him or not.)

I met her once, a couple years ago. She was scheduled to attend an event where she gave out Congressional Art Awards to children. She showed up nearly an hour late, rushed inside, rushed the ceremony, and then rushed off, saying that her kids were waiting for her in the car. Didn't apologize, didn't pretend to care about the people who were excited to meet her--the same people she claims to represent. How can you represent us if you don't take the time to get to know us?

Shopping Amenity

I noticed today that Price Chopper has a dispenser of sanitary hand wipes at the entrance to their store. This is the sort of thing that I probably would have scoffed at in the past, but after recently getting laid low by the flu for the better part of a week, I have a greater appreciation for keeping my hands clean. Using the wipe was great, not because I was worried about germs on the handle of the shopping cart, but because I touched a very grubby handrail on the stairs at school and my hand still felt icky from it. It was also nice to have handy after selecting a steak; the bottom of the wrapping was wet and I got some on my hands before I put it in a bag.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Holy Cow!

My new motor vehicle registration sticker arrived in the mail today. It's huge! The stickers they've used until now were little one-inch squares that go in the corner of the rear license plate. I was very confused when I opened the mail and found a 2x3-inch sticker. For a brief moment, I wondered how it could possibly fit on my license plate. Then I noticed the diagram for placing it on the windshield.

The little FAQ included with the sticker says that the new location is intended to cut down on registration theft. It also says that the old registration sticker can be left on the license plate. Hm. I once got pulled over because my registration had expired (it hadn't really--the new sticker never arrived in the mail). It was a cop downtown who pulled me over, just as I was driving past the Green. I have never seen Waterbury cops go after anyone for speeding (lots of drivers do 50 in residential 25 zones) or running red lights & stop signs, but they pulled me over because it looked like my registration had expired. Go figure.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Downtown After Dark

Every so often, I meet someone who tells me that they won't go to any events that take place in downtown Waterbury after dark. This always amazes and disappoints me. Downtown Waterbury is incredibly safe, any time of day or night. The crime rate is almost nonexistent, and most of it seems to take place during the middle of the day (for example, a store on Bank Street was robbed one afternoon a few weeks ago; no one was hurt). I don't think it's any more dangerous than Southbury or Watertown.

I have worked and lived and socialized downtown for nine years. I have walked across the downtown area alone after dark many times. The sum total of the "encounters" I've had are this: a very pleasant man talked to me about life while we walked down the street, then asked me if I had any money I could give him; on a couple of occasions, a man in a car (not the same one each time) has pulled up alongside me while I walked and asked if I "needed a ride"; a dude sitting on a bench asked me if I was "all set"; a different dude lurking in the doorway of an abandonned building asked me if I smoked; one time my friend and my sister were walking further ahead of me, and they claim that a prostitute started yelling at them about how she didn't want their competition. Oh, and I did once hear a story about two girls getting mugged by a skinny white guy wielding a stick in a parking lot behind a bar. Nine years, and that's all that's happened.

One of my favorite downtown stories involves me, a toga, and floral garlands. I dressed up Roman style for an event at the Palace Theater, wearing a shirt, skirt and sandals that weren't too dissimilar from what Roman women wore. I wrapped a white bedsheet around myself as a palla (the feminine form of the toga), and then a friend helped me pin giant fake flowers in my hair. It was very impressive looking. I then had to walk the length of the Green and the short block to the Palace in this outfit, in broad daylight. I think I almost caused a traffic accident, as everyone turned to look at me and struggled to figure out what I was. One driver asked a police officer if I was supposed to be the Statue of Liberty. The walk back was done after dark, when the streets were pretty much deserted. One of the event organizers was very worried about my safety; she was convinced that I was going to be assaulted. The one dude I encountered in my walk across the Green in the dark just stared and muttered about how crazy I was. I think maybe he thought he was hallucinating. The moral of the story: if you really are worried about your safety, just look like you're crazier than anyone else, and they won't know what to do.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Juried Show at the Mattatuck Museum

Any artist with a studio or home in Connecticut is invited to enter THE CONNECTICUT VISION 2006, a biannual juried show. This year's jurors are artists Charles Cajori and Barbara Grossman.

Entries need to be brought to the museum on September 10-11. Full details are available at the Mattatuck Museum website.

Also, VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED to assist with receiving, especially during the afternoon of Monday the 11th. No experience necessary, and it's a great way to meet artists and see their work. If you can help out, call the museum at (203) 753-0381, x10.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Slime, Evil, Insanity and Stupidity, all in one package!

Giordano has managed to make himself a center of media attention once again. I think he must have been feeling left out when he saw all the political attention Waterbury has been receiving this month.

After stealing untold amounts of money from the people of Waterbury, after using his office to molest little girls, after abusing his power as mayor in more ways than anyone will ever know, Giordano still has the audacity to claim that the city owes him money for unused vacation time and sick leave. Waterbury owes him no money. If anything, he should be expected to pay back any salary he ever received. And he calculated the amount of time he claims to have acrued based on a 35-hour work week. Thirty-five hours of work a week from the mayor of a city of 107,000 people. That hardly even counts as full time. What a stupid man. But I guess that's why he's done so many evil things. He's too stupid to know right from wrong.


More catching up on blogs I should have written a week or two ago...

Jarjura officially endorsed Lieberman at my favorite pizza place (Dominick & Pia's -- best pizza!). Lieberman said that "Mayor Mike" was an inspiration to him, having won reelection through a write-in campaign after losing his own primary.

I've never been big on party politics. I'm not really a supporter of the existence of political parties. I think they go against the interests of the public, allowing self-serving politicians to keep their racket going.

There's been a lot of talk about Lieberman doing damage to his party by running for reelection even though he lost the primary. Part of the reason he lost the primary was his public stance about his intention to continue running no matter the result of the primary. A lot of Democrats disliked what they heard as arrogance in his determination. As if Lamont were any less arrogant...

I hope Lieberman wins (and not just because Lamont doesn't seem to like Waterbury). Maybe his actions will lead to positive changes to our two-party system.

Lamont, Swan, Slime & Evil

This is now old news, but I'm going to comment anyway. Would have commented sooner, only I was away when most of it happened. In reading through online articles about the incident, I noticed that a lot of newspapers in other states and countries referred to Waterbury as a gritty industrial city. It's been decades since that was an accurate description.

Shortly after Lieberman lost the Democratic primary to Lamont, Lamont's campaign manager, Tom Swan, was quoted as describing Waterbury as the place where "the forces of slime meet the forces of evil." Waterbury has proven to be a Lieberman stronghold, which adds a greater sense of pettiness to Swan's comment. Swan claims that he was referring to ex-Mayor Giordano as the slime and ex-Governor Rowland as the evil. All other things aside, I think that's a terrible analogy. Giordano is both slime and evil. Compared to Giordano, Rowland is a bastion of goodness.

Swan's derogatory comment is a slam to all of Waterbury. He may claim that he was referring to specific individuals, but it seems pretty obvious that he was putting down the entire city and everyone who lives in it.

Swan initially apologized to Mayor Jarjura with a comment about how he usually doesn't associate Jarjura with corruption. Okay.... interesting use of "usually".... interesting that his apology only applied to Jarjura, not to the rest of us living in this city.

Lamont has since done some apologizing of his own, but hasn't gone further than to say that the comments were "unfortunate." It certainly gives the impression that Lamont doesn't care much about the people who live in Waterbury.

Monday, August 14, 2006

While You Were Out...

I left town for five days and all sorts of interesting stuff happened. Not to mention that the weather finally turned pleasant (while I was down south, where the temperature hit at least 95 every day -- but gas prices were at ~$2.85). Lamont, Lieberman, Jarjura, Dominick & Pia's, slime & evil... oh my!

I'll try to do some catching up over the next couple of days.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Cleaning up the mess

Yesterday the excessive heat and humidity finally came to an end with an intense storm at 6:30--torrential downpour, lightening, thunder, gale force winds. I briefly lost power a couple of times, which seemed odd since the storm had finished passing through long before-hand. Around 10pm, I noticed a flashing light out on the street. I peeked out the window and saw a utility guy warning a neighbor not to park too far down the street, but it was too dark for me to see anything else. When I went out this morning, there were small tree branches everywhere in the driveway. And, out on the street, half of a tree was resting on the power lines. There were two orange cones in the street on either end of the danger area.

Shortly after midnight tonight, a very noisy truck and crew pulled up outside. They're now working on cutting the tree out from the power lines. If they're working out there this late at night, more than twenty-four hours after the storm caused the damage, they must have had a lot to clean up elsewhere!

Blurry night shot of the cleanup crew. I really need to learn how to use my camera.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Farmer's Market

Here are some photos from the Farmer's Market on the Waterbury Green last week (with live music performance by The Carnegie Clapp Trio). The Farmer's Market is held every Thursday, 11am-3pm and was made possible through the tireless efforts of Marianne Vandenburgh and the Main Street Waterbury volunteer group. There is also a Farmer's Market in the Brass Mill Mall parking lot on Thursday afternoons. And I think there is one over near Lakewood Road as well.

Fruits, Vegetables, Flowers, Pies, Cookies, Organic Breads


Fresh Corn

Carnegie Clapp Trio
Carnegie Clapp Trio